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Home / India News / Govt tweaks MGNREGS for benefit of unskilled workers

Govt tweaks MGNREGS for benefit of unskilled workers

The government notified on July 2 that unskilled workers can now participate in the construction of community sanitary complexes under its flagship Swachh Bharat scheme—a priority welfare measure for the government.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2020 02:20 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Public works worth Rs 50,000 crore would be offered to create jobs for migrant workers through this programme.
Public works worth Rs 50,000 crore would be offered to create jobs for migrant workers through this programme.(Reuters Photo)

With millions of unskilled migrant workers in the cities having returned to rural India in the aftermath of the lockdown imposed for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the Narendra Modi government has tweaked the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for the benefit of the workers.

The government notified on July 2 that unskilled workers can now participate in the construction of community sanitary complexes under its flagship Swachh Bharat scheme—a priority welfare measure for the government.

The phrase “Unskilled wage component for construction of Community Sanitary Complexes in convergence with Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen)” has been added to schedule 1 of the MGNREGS where it talks about “Rural sanitation related works, such as, individual household latrines, School toilet units, Anganwadi toilets either independently or in convergence with schemes of other Government Departments to achieve “open defecation free‟ status, and solid and liquid waste management.

The arrangement, officials said, would in getting more hands for Swachh Bharat-related construction and for the unskilled workers, opens a dedicated area of work. MGNREGS promises 100 days of manual work a year to at least one member of every rural household

The government recently announced a targeted programme comprising 25 types of existing work to offer jobs to migrant labourers who have returned home in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Out of these 25, construction of community sanitation complexes was mentioned at the top of the presentation made at a press conference.

Public works worth Rs 50,000 crore would be offered to create jobs for migrant workers through this programme.

The skill mapping done in 116 districts across six states for the rozgar (employment)programme has revealed the high share of unskilled workers from the construction sector who came back to rural India during the pandemic. While construction workers comprised nearly 60% of all migrant daily-wagers, about 40% were unskilled.

Officials pointed out that last year too, the MGNREGS laws had been tweaked when the government renewed its emphasis on rain water harvesting. In November 2019, schedule 1 was amended to allow “rooftop rain water harvesting structures in Government or Panchayat buildings.”

MGNREGS was cleared by Parliament in 2005 and subsequently, many changes have been made to make the programme more attractive to the poor beneficiaries. An official pointed out, “the changes are only made in the schedule or an appendix of the main law. So, it doesn’t require the Parliament’s sanction.”

The union government is heavily banking on the MGNREGS to provide relief to India’s vast rural sector. It has pumped in an additional Rs 40,000 crore to beef up the MGNREGS annual budget to Rs 1.05 lakh crore--the highest ever allocation to the rural jobs scheme. The government also plans to create 300 crore persondays of work under MGNREGS this financial year.

“MGNREGS is anyway demand-driven and works of swachh bharat were already included. creating job opportunities for unskilled workers is good but the main question is where is the money? the government has hiked MGNREGS budget by Rs 40,000 crore but the budget won’t be sufficient for the entire year given the very high demand for work,” said Himanshu, an associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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